AET Cheong Cheung, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, negotiates with a ship OTAGO wants to board.
The satisfaction of catching wrongdoers at sea is one of the high points for Able Electronics Technician Cheong Cheung.
AET Cheung’s skill as an interpreter was vital during the Operation CALYPSO interceptions. Most fishing vessels in Melanesian and Micronesian waters would have Chinese or Taiwanese crews, with a Chinese captains.
Fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, AET Cheung would be called to the bridge if the initial radio calls to the ship received no response. “When we’re in range, we radio the ship in English, but if we get no response, I come in.” That scenario played out in nearly every case, with AET Cheung explaining to the fishing vessel’s captain what OTAGO wanted to do.
AET Cheung would then join the boarding party to head over to the vessel, and introduce the ship’s captain to the Ministry for Primary Industry officials. He says the captain would often be reluctant to stop work, but his crew appeared to welcome the break as the boarding party went about their business.
He says the boarding parties got more practiced throughout the operation. “The first one took two hours, but when we got the hang of it, we would do the inspections in 30 to 45 minutes.”
He says it is very satisfying to catch illegal fishers. “If we find the evidence, it’s like, yes! We’ve got you.”
AET Cheung’s family came to New Zealand in 1996, and he joined the Navy five years ago. This is his second Operation CALYPSO deployment, the previous being on HMNZS WELLINGTON. “I like to travel, and the Navy goes everywhere,” he says.